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Intellectual property and access to clean energy technologies in developing countries: an analysis of solar photovoltaic, bio fuel and wind technologies

This paper explores whether developing countries will face barriers accessing technologies in reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases. Focusing on intellectual property rights (IP), it concentrates on the more scientifically advanced developing countries such as Brazil, China, and India.

The authors look at the structure of three sectors, photo-voltaic (PV), bio-mass and wind energy. The benefits of the basic (silicon-slice) technology are likely to be available to developing nations even in the face of patents. It appears as if developing nations also have good access to the current generation of bio fuel technology. The technologies are traditional, and many firms are interested in bringing the technology to developing nations. The wind sector is competitive enough that developing nations will be able to build wind farms without enormous IP costs. However, it is more difficult for them to enter the global market for wind turbines.

Key concluding points include:

  • it would be far better for developed nations to go even further and commit themselves to devoting a portion of their technology development to the special needs of developing nations 
  • the evidence suggests a possibility that stronger IP will help in more advanced developing nations, and offers little indication of risk associated with such strengthening. The answer may be different in poorer nations 
  • it would be ideal to design the subsidies in ways that do not distort trade or discriminate against developing nation firms. This would be a very difficult negotiation, but an extremely valuable goal to seek